Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


3.4.07
  A Royal Mess .... eh, Mistress

I'm preparing a post about Donizetti's opera Maria Padilla but got a bit sidetracked by the historical background. Since it ties in with Edward III (whom we already have met in L'assedio di Calais), I think there might be some interest among my readers. Unfortunately, the Wikipedia article is a mess, but I don't want to get so sidetracked as to look for books in the University Library. The Spanish version is more detailed and obviously makes more sense, but my Spanish doesn't make any, lol. Maybe David can read it and add some interesting details.

Maria de Padilla (1134-1361) was mistress and later the wife of King Pedro the Cruel of Castille (1334-1369; he's also called 'el Justiciero', the Law-Abiding?, depending on the sources).

The first connection of the young King of Castille with Edward III is that he was supposed to marry Edward's daughter Joan, but she caught the plague on her way to Castille and died. Next candidate for marriage was Blanche of Bourbon - first England and now France, and with the Hudred Years War going on. Makes one wonder. Pedro's mother and her Portugesian favourite Alfonso de Albuquerque may have talked him into that alliance.

At that time Pedro was already living with Maria de Padilla. She was of the Spanish noblity and daughter of Juan García de Padilla, Señor de Villagera. So when Blanche arrived, Pedro took one look and put her off to the Alcazar in Toledo, which did not please the French and Albuquerque one bit. Nor did it please the Pope. Pedro didn't care about Albuquerque who fell from favour faster than a Bavarian peasant boy falls off the ladder to the window of a girl who doesn't like him. France and the Pope were another matter, but not even the latter could talk Pedro into sending off Maria instead of his wife.

And here's where part of the confusion comes in. Blanche died in 1359, but it is said Pedro married Maria in 1353. Was the marriage to Blanche annuled, or was she indeed killed by instigation of the king because the Pope would not annul the marriage, and would Pedro and Maria then have married in 1359? And what role plays another woman, Juana de Castro, who seems to have seeked to replace Maria but without success? Well, fact is that the children of Pedro and Maria must have been legitimized at some point, or Edward III would scarcely have married his younger sons to them: John of Gaunt married Constance, and Edmund of Langley Isabella. There's the next connection to the Plantagenets. Alliances with England again. Don't you love politics?.

Maria de Padilla died in 1361 but I have not found any details (childbirth, illness?).

Pedro was not popular among the Castillian nobility, and he had some troublesome half-brothers - his dad Alfonso looked for fun outside the marriage bed as well. The most important of the lot was Enrique de Trastamara who led the rebellion, or became its figurehead - depending whether one sees it as a rebellion of the nobles against a king, or the result of Enrique's ambitions. In the following period of turmoil, Pedro may have been imprisoned for a time, but I could not find proof for that. Following the not unusual politics that the best means against inside troubles is an outside war, Pedro attacked the kingdom of Aragon, but without success.

What followed was the the Castillian Civil War (1366-69). Enrique had the support of France, the Pope, and Aragon (Pedro had a talent collecting enemies) and could use French mercenaries led by Bertrand du Guesclin, and I bet French money as well. Pedro got kicked off the throne and was obliged to flee to Gascony, then held by the English. He implored Edward Prince of Wales, the Black Prince, oldest son of Edward III, for aid in exchange of some land in Castille and other compensations.

The Black Prince managed to send Enrique packing after the battle of Navarette (Najéra, 1367). But Pedro didn't keep his promises to Edward who soon got sick both in real and of Pedro and left Castille.

Enrique meanwhile signed a treaty with Charles of France (who now was promised the bits of Castille Pedro failed to give Edward of Wales) and when he saw that Black fellow had left, went back to Castille. Pedro lost the Battle of Montiel, and Enrique killed - or had him killed - his half-brother in the tent of du Guesclin to make sure Pedro would not cause any more trouble. But what was Pedro doing in the tent of the leader of the French mercenaries in the first place?

If anyone can sort out the confusions and add more interesting tidbits, feel free to comment.

Picture: Pedro's beheading, from a 14th century manuscript. Public license.
(Strange how they were all running around with their crowns on all day long)
 
Comments:
Constance, Pedro's daughter, is one of those people I'd really love to know more about. I believe that there's a biography of her own daughter by John of Gaunt, but I think it's in Spanish.
 
Hmm.
She figures in my family tree somewhere - but such claims are so notoriously unreliable I never pursued her history.
 
Susan,
there seem to be a lot of interesting people that never made it to the historical spotlight. The 'Edwardian' blogs on my blogroll have introduces me to several of them.

Lol Bernita,
I'm of old Abodrite nobility, it seems :)
 
Very interesting post! I'd also love to know more about Constance, and her sister Isabella - who was meant to have had an affair with Richard II's half-brother John Holland, though that may be vicious gossip. Apparently her tomb was opened in the 19th century, and she was only 4 feet 8 inches tall (according to Alison Weir).
 
Lol, I'm always more interested in the men. But that's an interesting tidbit about Isabella's size - or lack thereof. ;)
 
Wasn't Isabella the one with forked teeth too?
 
Edmund of Langley was 5 feet 11, so there was a pretty big difference in height.

Susan - yes, Weir claims that Isabella had 'strange, forked teeth', but I've also read that she hopelessly misinterpreted the evidence.
 
I'm with you, Gabriele.
John of Gaunt, now, was far more interesting to my taste.
 
Bernita,
maybe someone of the 'Edwardians' on my blogroll will write a post about John and Edmund and their Spanish wives. :)
 
You always have the most awesome pictures on your site!
 
Yeesh, you need a flow chart to follow the intrique. I think the most important question comes at the end - "What was Pedro doing in the tent of the leader of the French mercenaries?" That's what I'd like to know. What scheme was he up to? Just stopped by for lunch seems a bit implausible, given his history. :)
 
Thank you, Megumi.
That one I found on Wikimedia, though, it's not one of my own.

Constance,
I hope David aka Excalibor, who is Spanish, will chime in with more info. Though he loves the old guys like Alexander and some pharoahs better than the muddled Middle Ages. :)
 
Interesting post :) The Dutch Wikipedia has some more detail about Pedro's death: He tried to escape from the siege of Montiel by offering du Guesclin a lot of gold. However, once he'd gotten hold of Pedro, du Guesclin made him a prisoner and surrendered him to Enrique. Pedro was not amused and tried to stab Enrique, but some random knight noticed and tripped him. Then Enrique grabbed his dagger and stabbed Pedro.

Thea Beckman has a rather good trilogy about the Hundred Year's War; the third book is about du Guesclin's trip to Spain. Here it's the MC (a ten-year-old with a talent for throwing knives) who kills Pedro. I really need to reread those books.
 
So it was self-defense, not an execution. Interesting story, thanks for posting that, Celede.

I should try to find those books albeit it may prove difficult here.
 
Well, better late than later (heh :-)

According to my reading of the Wikipedia (spanish edition), Pedro married Blanca de Borbón (Blanche) and three days later he leaves her due to a supposed infidelity, and returns to María de Padilla, his lover, who had already given him a child, Beatriz. Apparently the marriage between Pedro and Blanche was highly desired by D. Juan Alfonso de Albuquerque (king's favourite) and the treason of his new wife would had been with D. Fadrique de Trastamara on her way from France to Valladolid, the Trastamara being one of the most powerful families of the time.

Later on, he asked/forced for the nulity of his marriage with Blanche (who was imprisoned) so he could marry Juana de Castro, but he kept having children with María de Padilla.

WHen Pedro moved to Medina Sidonia, he ordered the assasination of Blanche so he could marry María, but she (María) died of some natural causes, de su dolencia (according to Ayala on his chronicle: of her dolence/illness; probably the Black Death?) in Astudillo. He managed to get all his marriages nullified so she could be her one, only and true love forever.

Later on, a Frenchman called Duguesclín accompanied Pedro to a tent where his brother Enrique was waiting for him: they run on each other and fell to the ground, Pedro on Enrique: a Duguesclín is said to say these famous words: "I don't quit nor put kings, but I'll help my lord", he moved Pedro and put him on the ground as well, then Enrique de Trastamara stabbed him repeatedly and then beheaded him: sounds like treason to me, anyway... :-P

And this is all modern history to me, open to interpretation: I'm still collecting the fragments of the Roman Empire, by love's sake! ;-)

Laters!
 
Thank you, David.

This is getting more convoluted. So Pedro was married to Blanche, divorced her (or annulled the marriage - but why then did he order her assassination), married Juana who is said to have refused a sexual relation without a marrige, but continued to sleep with Maria, got that marriage annulled, too, and married Maria when she was dying to legitimise the children she bore him?

And wasn't that Fadrique of Trastamara who is said to have had an affair with Blanche, a brother or half-brother of Enrique? And what side is Du Guesclin on before he decides to help Enrique?

A novel writer could have a field day with that. Just well I write about earlier periods; so no plotbunny there. ;)
 
Maria is rumored to have gone to great lengths to claim her 'rightful title'. Apparently during her life Portugal decided to deport Gypsies [Roma] people to Brazil. She apparently travelled with some of them, or to the colonies they were being deported to. In these new settlements she gained followers. They believed her the rightful Queen. Maria is rumored to have long reaching powers. Many people were convinced that she was a wicked witch. She may have had a hand in Blanche's assasination. Pedro constantly returned to Maria, but he constantly left her. He had a harem of mistresses. He wanted to be with her but she was not a favorite amongst his people. Blanche was an acceptable wife.
The folklore of Maria goes: She had a brother and sister. Her brother raped her and her sister as children. At some point she came of age and was forced to find a husband. She decided on Pedro.
Maria was able to get close to Pedro. When it was realised that Pedroand Maria were growing close, they were distsnced. Pedro was being groomed. Maria was a fit Queen. Maria was forced out of the family home. She fled due to a forced marraige. She kept her heart on Pedro. She found a community of prostitutes. She took every opportunity to make money. Pedro was not aware of the prostitution. While a prostitute, her brother came to the area looking for a woman. He did not recognize Maria. She took her brother's money, but she stabbed him several times, even after he was dead. Maria was not always under Pedro's roof. Maria had time to conspire. With the type of people Maria is acquainted with it is possibe she used connections. Blanche may not have cheated. She may have been on an unescorted trip with a man. Maria die of natural causes. It is in the folklore that Maria was in her old neck of the woods. She was disturbed by what her brother had done to her , and that she had murdered him. She hallucinated, thought she saw her brother's ghost. She ran from the ghost but slipped smashed her head on a rock. This type of death would have been deemed natural. No one murdered her. It is also said it was a priest that found her body. [Wasn't it the pope who had a problem with her?] This is all the folklore I have gathered. I know she is mentioned in Prosper Merimees' 1845 novella, Carmen [source material for Bizet's opera], the gypsy Carmen sings magickal songs invoking Maria de Padilla, who is described as Bari Crallisa, "Queen of the Gypsies".
There are two different religions in which Maria is worshipped as a Queen and Goddess of love. It is very interesting. She is known as Maria de Padilla, Maria Padilha, and Pomba Gira Maria Padilla, Maria Mulambo, Maria Quiteria, Pomba Gira Seven Crossroads, Pomba Gira Queen of the Crossroads, Pomba Gira of the Souls, Pomba Gira Tsigana [Gypsy], Pomba Gira Queen of Calunga [Queen of the Sea], Pomba Gira Bonita, Sulamita.
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.

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